Summary: He dreams about Hell and feathers and grace and sweat and sin and asks for absolution at every turn. Dean is not a hero, not like that. Oneshot.

Disclaimer: If I owned anything, would I be writing fanfiction?

A/N: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR 4x16! If you haven't seen the episode, don't read this fic!

In other news: This is not at all what I intended to write, but hey, it happens. Feedback please?

--

He feels fleeting and inconsequential, strapped to a hospital bed for the first and the hundredth time. Dean has never felt this broken, not when he learned about his father's deal, or when he held his dying brother in his arms, or even when tortured souls in Hell for forty years. He breathes through a tube and can barely move his fingers and the bruises on his face are enough to make Sam wince every time he walks into the room.

Above it all, his heart is pounding, too rapidly for comfort and not fast enough for it to be of any help. He feels the break, somewhere deep inside his chest, a place the doctors cannot touch no matter how many shiny metal instruments they push beneath his skin.

Castiel tells him to have faith. When Dean wakes each morning, his brother is asleep in the chair next to his bed and the angel is sitting, staring at the wall, every bit as infuriating and beautiful as he has been from the start. Their presence only makes it worse.

This burden is too big to carry alone. And yet…

--

Anna never actually appears, but Castiel starts mentioning her on a regular basis and it makes Dean ache, because of course he had to touch the fallen angel.

He wonders if it would have been better to give into darker instincts and touch Castiel first.

Sometimes he dreams about them – both of them – feathers and grace and sweat and sin. Their passion would move mountains, he knows, because he has felt the earth move beneath Anna's fingertips and he knows what it is like to be touched by an angel's wings and the break in his chest gets a little less painful with every brush of feathers against his cheek.

--

The first time Castiel kisses him, he feels like his skin is shattering. When he tangles his hands in the angel's hair, he swears he can feel his fingertips humming, the bone-deep pain of desire enough to put him on another respirator. The break in his chest becomes a catastrophic explosion, shredding his heart like so much compost. He pulls the angel closer – fuck, Cas – and pleads for absolution.

--

She saves his ass on a hunt and they both watch in horror as Sam kills four demons without breaking a sweat. Dean collapses in her arms and she murmurs something in a language he cannot comprehend. He blacks out soon after and surfaces beneath Castiel's trench coat, curled in a ball on his bed.

Anna tries to soothe him but he hates seeing her for irrelevant reasons. She tells him that Cas will be back later, which does little to calm him, but he is less argumentative when she wraps her arms around him this time. He sees Sam, peacefully asleep in the other bed, and tears fill his eyes so quickly he can barely breathe.

Dean dreams about hell that night. He wakes up screaming, chest flaring with pain that is brighter even than the angels in his bed.

--

No one asks why he does not talk about the apocalypse. The break in his chest – the explosion, the metaphysical mark on his being that is tearing his identity to shreds, because he is not a hero, not like that – becomes a dull ache that he learns to deal with. He is not old, but some days he feels frail and small, hunched like the old woman he saw in the liquor store in Arizona last week.

Sam hunts by his side, as always, both of them ignoring the looming presence of safety at their backs and danger everywhere else and Dean turns the water as hot as it will go in every motel they stay in. He knows he cannot wash away the guilt of breaking the first seal, setting this shitstorm in motion, but he tries.

--

Sam sneaks out to see Ruby at least once a week. Dean gets used to fake-snoring until his little brother leaves and then he sits up in bed, flipping through infomercials and wishing he had need for a blanket with arms, even if it really is just a robe you wear backwards and he is not that big of a tool.

The fourth time Sam leaves, Castiel appears in his wake, frowning at Dean for not stopping his brother. Dean shrugs, flips to another channel, the eerie glow of the television bathing them both in soft white light. He meets the angel's eyes and smiles sadly. He's a stubborn son of a bitch. Wouldn't listen to me even if I tried.

Castiel's frown deepens and then Dean leans forward, muting the television and biting his lip. C'mere, he murmurs. There is a soft brush of feathers against his cheek and then the angel is there, kissing the hell out of him.

It only takes him ten minutes to come, steady fingers and intoxicatingly sweet breath pushing him down, down, down…

--

The second time Anna fucks him, he is overwhelmed by the feeling of her grace. It consumes him, burning through his flesh everywhere that she touches him, and he wonders if he will end up with a feminine handprint on his right shoulder to match the masculine burn on his left. He thinks it would be appropriate. He has never been this torn.

--

Dean stands in front of the mirror as he cleans the cut on his stomach, meticulously rubbing alcohol-soaked gauze over the wound. He meets his own eyes several times, fleeting gazes that are barely enough to interest his well-worn vanity.

When he drops the gauze in the sink and looks up, really looks at his reflection, his chest burns as though touched by hellfire. He clenches his fists, grinds his teeth together and screams, kicking the wall behind him with enough force to break the plaster.

Sam is on him in a second, all calming tones and gentle words, but Dean laughs bitterly and pushes his little brother out of the way, grabbing the chair just outside the bathroom door and smashing it into the mirror. His reflection shatters with a satisfying crunch, the glass sprinkling the tile floor like wind chimes and Anna's laughter and Castiel's guttural groans; the sound swelters and Dean is panting as he tosses the chair into the bathtub.

Neither of the angels arrives to calm his tantrum and Sam has tears in his eyes when Dean finally looks at him. His chest feels tight, locked up somehow, and he wants to claw out his heart and feed it to Lilith because maybe then they can find someone else to carry this weight.

--

He dreams about Hell and feathers and grace and sweat and sin and when he wakes in the morning, Anna is holding his hand and Castiel is cradling Dean's head in his lap. They ask him why he smashed his reflection and he searches the room for Sam.

Castiel mentions breakfast – coffee, maybe – and Dean drops his head back, laughing bitterly and putting his free hand against his own chest. He clenches his fingers and tries to tug at his skin but it barely gives and his fingerprints are white rimmed with red.

Find someone else, he breathes. I am not a righteous man.

Anna kisses his forehead gently. Castiel hums deep in his throat and Dean closes his eyes and breathes. The wetness on his cheeks drags salt into his mouth and he licks it from his lips slowly, lapping it up like holy water. They tell him to have faith.

Dean tells them again – I'm not a hero, not like that, please, you guys are screwed if you put this on me – and then sobs brokenly, releasing Anna's hand and sitting up and clawing at his chest. He screams and shouts and both of them watch him calmly, like they knew this would happen eventually.

When the tears finally stop, he slumps to the ground and breathes shallowly, his head in his hands. The break, the explosion, the ache slowly dissipates and he tilts his head back to stare at the ceiling. He begs for absolution for the first and the hundredth time, murmuring under his breath, and then he is surrounded by two pairs of wings.

He soaks up their strength, eyes closed and head bowed. Castiel and Anna hold him up as he slumps against their joined embrace and he laughs quietly to himself. His chest is looser than it has been since his hospital stay and he has never felt this grounded.

This fight is his to finish. And yet they have not once forced him to stand entirely on his own.